John 3:16 is a well-known verse of the Bible. It’s a great summary of God’s love for us. However, taken together with the two following verses, it becomes part of an even bigger message. Let’s take a look.
First, the best-known of these three verses:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV
God’s love is incredible. Even after we chose to separate ourselves from Him, He chose to make a path to restore us. The cost was unimaginable – the willing sacrifice of Jesus (God the Son). However, accepting that sacrifice as the payment for our wrong choices is pretty straightforward, and the rewards are eternal. Even if you and I have never met, I am certain that God’s love is addressed to you, because it applies to everyone. No matter your choices, no matter your path, no matter your sin: God would like for you to believe in Jesus, and to live forever with Him.
If you somehow got the impression that God was only about judgment (that is, just waiting for you to make a mistake), keep reading:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 NIV
Jesus’ mission – at least, during that visit – was not to bring punishment (although He would have been well within His rights to do so). Instead, His fulfilled purpose was to provide the means of salvation – of restoration – for fallen people like you and me. Eventually, there must be a settling up of accounts, but for those who have accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins, those accounts are paid in full, and the penalty of sin (death) is no longer something we have to dread, because Jesus already paid that penalty for us.
Finally, the next verse gives us assurance and confidence, with a warning:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Godʼs one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV
The first part encourages those of us who believe in Jesus. We can have confidence that His payment for our sins is enough. While many may accuse us falsely, we will not be condemned when the ultimate, final judgment arrives. Jesus steps in and points out – on our behalf – that our wrong choices are paid for.
However, while we are offered a new life, thanks to Jesus’ payment on our behalf, God does not make us return to Him. He doesn’t require that we come back to His family. He would like for that to happen, but forcing you to come back would take away your right to choose.
That is, the opportunity for eternal life is provided by God, but our choice – whether or not we accept it – is left to us, along with the consequences of our choices. I hope that you will choose well. Let me know if you have any questions, and together we can investigate what the Bible says about them.